FX's The Strain: Will It Catch On?

The Strain Season 1

It’s time to forget everything you know about vampires.

Although the pop culture landscape is currently littered with blood-suckers — most of them very good-looking — the vampirism found in FX’s The Strain is entirely new (and way, way creepier).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The thriller — produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Chuck Hogan (The Town) — makes no mention of vampires, in its first hour at least, which debuted Sunday at 10/9c.

RELATED  Guillermo del Toro Touts The Strain‘s Extreme Scares: ‘You Need to Show the Audience You’re Not Kidding’

Rather, the series premiere centers on Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll) and his New York City-based CDC team, as they investigate a plane that mysteriously shut down and went cold moments after landing.

PLANE AND SIMPLE | Upon searching the aircraft, Ephraim and his partner, Nora (Alias’ Mia Maestro) find that most of the passengers are DOA, all of them exhibiting symptoms like discoloration and strangely elastic skin. But four of the 210 on board have somehow survived the ordeal, and they’re forced into quarantine. Great! Investigation over!… Right? So, so wrong. As Ephraim, Nora & Co. continue investigating what they assume is a virus, they enter the airport’s cargo hold to find a nine-foot-tall carved wooden coffin — which wasn’t on the airplane’s manifest — that’s filled with soil and features a latch on the inside as well as the outside.

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF | In Harlem, pawn shop owner Abraham Setrakian (played by Game of Thrones’ David Bradley) immediately makes himself known as a badass when he thwarts two robbers trying to hold up his store. But Abraham also has a few extra-creepy tricks up his sleeve: The virus that took down Regis Flight 753 is one that also appeared years ago, and it seems to have taken quite the toll on Abraham. (The first clue? A jar in Abraham’s basement that seems to contain an enlarged, throbbing heart, which he feeds with his own blood.) “I don’t know if I have the strength to do it all over again,” Abraham sighs. “I cannot fail.” So, he grabs his awesome-looking sword and ventures to the airport, where he tries to convince Ephraim that the virus is no joke. All the infected bodies, dead or alive, must have their heads severed, he says, and the soil-filled coffin must not cross the river. Naturally, Ephraim is skeptical and has Abraham arrested, because what’s a horror story without a character who’s never taken seriously?

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HEART OF STONE | Meanwhile, it seems there is a method to the virus’ madness, and it’s perpetuated by the Stoneheart Group that’s stationed across town. Led by Thomas Eichorst, who hasn’t aged in decades and knows of Abraham’s quest against the virus, the Stoneheart Group enlists an associate to steal the coffin and bring it across the river, which he’s successful in doing. (No thanks to the CDC’s Jim Kent, who seems to have a previous connection to the Stoneheart Group that doesn’t sit well with him. Also, hi, Sean Astin!)

Of course, attaching Guillermo del Toro’s name to a project means bringing the scares, and The Strain’s first hour has no shortage of them. In a scene that rivals Game of Thrones’ Mountain vs. Oberyn fight, an airport employee gets his life literally sucked out by the show’s Big Bad — called “The Master” — before his head is smashed to pieces. And that brings us back to the aforementioned vampires: The titular virus stakes its claim via violent blood-sucking and fast-moving worms that enter the bloodstream. And although Ephraim and Nora don’t yet know the virus is rooted in vampirism, something tells me they’ll catch on quick after finding a CDC lab tech killed by Flight 753’s not-so-dead passengers.

Suffice to say, The Strain has its fair share of cover-your-eyes moments, which more than make up for the series’ lackluster elements (a dull subplot involving Ephraim’s shaky marriage) and unanswered questions (what’s the deal with Ephraim drinking milk?). For this TVLine writer, returning for Episode 2 is a foregone conclusion.

That’s what we think, but what’s your take? Grade The Strain via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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69 Comments
  1. Meg says:

    So creepy. Will def. keep watching.

  2. Joey says:

    Admittedly, I was only able to see the first half, and I’ll have to tune into the rest tomorrow, but from what I saw, I’m hooked.

  3. cheeky says:

    Interesting and a refreshing break from vampire romance, I’ll keep watching.

    • A Fan says:

      Me too. But will have to watch when it repeats Friday night at 11:00. The Master is pretty creepy and the way he attacks his victims is too.

      • Ray says:

        Really? I couldn’t help but laugh when the Master was on screen. He was about as scary as The Master from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the 1992 film, not the WB series)

  4. Marcus T. says:

    Pretty slow, but it was the pilot so i’m sure it will pick up.

  5. Annie says:

    I watched peeking threw my hands in front of my eyes. Creepy girl! I like it, just not sure if I will watch it in real time or watch during the daytime (vampires don’t like daylight, right?) spooky and good show!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Wasn’t the guy who The Master killed by smashing his head after sucking him dry an airport employee and not a CDC guy?
    That being said, it was an ok pilot. I’ll give it a try again.

  7. analog says:

    Get rid of Corey Stoll’s wig.

    • Lyn12 says:

      I LIKED seeing Rep. Russo with hair … but yeah, that did look kind of Eddie Munster-ish at times.

    • Brandon says:

      I do agree it was weird seeing Corey with a wig butit actually looks good. Plus the character he portrays has hair that becomes important later in the series.

    • Jennifer says:

      I’d say get rid of it because he’s way hotter without hair but as Brandon said it does become important later.

  8. Alichat says:

    It was interesting. Agree that the marriage sub-plot was boring. And was made even more un-appealing by the cocky, aggressive boyfriend. It was nice to see Francis Capra pop up again….even if it was a small part. And all I could think anytime David Bradley was on screen was “So Filch is a vampire slayer now??”

  9. Yeahman says:

    What is it with people and wanting all of this horror crap. People go to movies and watch tv shows so the can enjoy a good story. This is just a one way ticket to nightmares and paranoia.

    • Yes. I prefer unrealistic, happily-ever-after romances,, unfunny Chuck Lorre comedies fixed reality shows and annoyingly self-aware Shonda Rhimes dramas.

      If I want to watch true fiction, I’ll take good horror any day, as most of the demons and monsters in good horror are representatives of the demons and monsters we face in everyday life.

    • Tai says:

      Nah, horror is entertaining to me. Now my one way ticket to nightmares and paranoia comes from watching Law and Order:SVU. I’m more likely to run into a monster from that show than anything from The Strain.

      • Yeahman says:

        True

        • Yeahman says:

          I admit there are shows a lot worse and cheesy. But at least there are others that don’t try to freak you out.

          • CountryQueen says:

            And this is a bad thing because…? I don’t know about you, but my life is pretty good, so I love to get a good scare from a show/movie/book. It’s not like I will ever feel that way in real life. For me, that’s the point. It’s human nature to enjoy a good scare. And I’ll take a show like this over a romance, or shoot ‘em up any day!

    • I think you’re confusing Xenomorphic Vampires with FOX NEWS.
      Don’t be sad though. It’s an easy mistake to make.

  10. Rick Katze says:

    While a high “above average”, cannot really do to awesome this soon. Want to see a couple of more episodes to see if there is a story beyond the opening of how he(it?) happens into NY.

  11. Alex says:

    “Dull subplot about Ephraim’s marriage”

    Don’t worry, it’s going somewhere.

  12. Mike says:

    I really liked it. The only misstep in an otherwise engaging story is when Abraham goes to the airport to tell what he knows and we get the clicjed scene of his coming across as a nut and even though he knows things he couldn’t, Eph doesn’t have the time to listen to him. It’s a scene in almost every horror movie ever made. I was hoping they would avoid that.

  13. Alex M. says:

    Ok, honestly why is NO ONE talking about the low level of dialogue writing on this show?! It was like watching Tremors! I mean I was sufficiently compelled by the actual story and the genuine thrills n chills I received, but the dialogue is obviously meant to engender visions of the lowest level horror movies. Maybe they’re going for a homage type deal or maybe it’s a Guillermo thing? I’ve never really enjoyed his films. I just want an explanation why the people behind this show have went ABOVE and BEYOND to trump up the dialogue to such a cartoonish manner.

    I will be back, if only because I like being scared. However, I pray that they sidestep the stereotypical language schlock and get down to the business of telling an engaging, surprising, and terrifying drama. I KNOW there is promise in there somewhere.

    • Totally agree! Yes, the dialogue (or is it bad acting in some cases?) was cringe-worthy. To me it felt like a foreign language show dubbed into English by someone who didn’t quite get the nuances of he original foreign language. So wanted to love this. Will give it one more shot, hopefully it’s just opening/pilot episode jitters. :-)

  14. Rob says:

    To be honest, the story in the books is much faster, tighter and just plain better.

    I wish networks would stop trying to stretch a single good idea, like Hostages or Mixology or a book, like The Strain, and try to make a multi-season series out of it. That’s just plain greedy.

    The Strain could have been an excellent miniseries (6-12 episodes) or even a macroseries (18-20 episodes) and followed the books’ plot much more closely. But now that it’s a series, they’re going to have to stretch it out and slow it down.

    They really dumbed down the story, too, by adding the attack on the flight attendants, instead of the mysteriousness of the plane simply landing and shutting down. Let’s hope they realize the audience that will follow this series doesn’t need, and definitely won’t like, being spoon fed every revelation and clue.

    • James says:

      It’s been only the pilot. Get over it. The showrunners have long stated the show will stand on its own, as it should.

  15. benjitek says:

    Very entertaining, an extended summer blockbuster.

    It’s good they get the CDC stuff out of the way in the first episode, it’s not very authentic in many obvious ways — but so what, no need for the bio-hazard suits after episode 1 ;-)

    Hopefully they’ll wind up the story line in 1 season, or do 1 season for each book, and not drag it out — it could easily turn into another Walking Dead, with luck it won’t.

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  17. seattlejohn449 says:

    the book explains Ef got sober in an effort to reunite with his wife & son & subsequently has become addicted to drinking milk as comfort food…I much preferred the series to the book, which seemed drawn out & goes to cliche-ville later on…liked the visuals & pace & am totally wanting more

  18. ? says:

    What on earth did Corey Stoll have on his head?

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  20. Ian says:

    Hmm, I thought it was full of tropes, and that the writing was pretty standard, but it did have some pretty nice effects and neat twists on the vampire monster.
    I’ll give the show a couple more episodes to really be brilliant.

    The voiceover about love though was really forced, and Ephraim supposedly loves his wife and wants to be with her – meanwhile we’re seeing him admit to having slept with his partner and is still basically having an emotional affair with her…? Ok.

  21. “A dull subpot” involving his marriage? They spent a grand total of 8 minutes out of 140 dealing with his failed marriage. I think I’d hold off judgment until I see where it goes.

  22. Lyn12 says:

    Mixed feelings … “Pan’s Labyrinth” was an exciting experience in the theater, but I don’t have a wall-size TV and don’t really watch at home for fabulous special effects. Perhaps could have used a little more character development before the horror stuff took over. On the upside, Big improvement over the idiotic “vampires as romantic & sexy” idea. Downside: Wouldn’t even check it out if “Halt and Catch Fire” wasn’t so awful!

  23. Dave says:

    Did they just give Corey Stoll the same wig he wore in Midnight In Paris?

  24. Michael says:

    To be honest, I expected a lot more exciting stuff to happen during the 90-minute pilot. However, outside of the master subplot, it was fairly dull and lackluster. The main character seems to just be angry for no apparent reason, making me like the female sidekick much more. I will definitely be tuning in to the next episode because I really want to like the show. I hope it gets better.

  25. abu121 says:

    have to say its a amazing show hope its picked up for season 2

  26. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    This show has my attention even though I felt somewhere in the ep. they jump the shark….but overall I think the series might stick around. Plus nice to see David Bradley 4rm Game of Thrones!

  27. Barbara says:

    I love that show I like vampire shows anyhow I hope they keep going at the speed they are at or better I really enjoyed the show looking forward to the next show

  28. lou amely says:

    I liked the change on the vampire story.
    Its was very scary the something like that could reach our shores so easy.

  29. Sheldon W. says:

    One of the best TV horror series ever. Definitely delivers the creepy and the scary.

  30. Alaisdair says:

    this show was AMAZING! I had no idea it was Del Toro till the middle of the show and wow did he deliver! So creepy, so bloody! Cannot wait for the rest of it!

  31. tvfanatic says:

    In the beginning the star of the series drove an english car right in an american airport.that is a terrible mistake to do from the part of the makers of the pilot.english cars in reality might be driven anywhere in the world but on tv the reality is different.

  32. Kevin says:

    Ephraim drinks milks because it’s heavily implied he was an alcoholic. That’s all.

  33. Gary Davis says:

    Note that the airplane arriving with everyone seemingly dead parallels Count Dracula’s ship, the Demeter, arriving in England with all aboard dead. And of course, there is a Van Helsing character also. Great modern update of the Bram Stoker legend–horrifying, suspenseful, and without the romantic teen fluff popular of late. Nosferatu with a giant hoodie! (That’s also a bit of a Halloween touch.)

  34. Andrew says:

    The Strain book trilogy was really good. Don’t complain about subplots in the first episode. Chuck Hogan and Del Toro are great writers. Check out Corey Stoll as Hemingway in Midnight In Paris, got hair.

  35. Dion Freeman says:

    Now that they have begun The Stain, maybe now we can get back to the way vampires are SUPPOSED to be! AND, maybe now we can see Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series FINALLY make it to the silver screen!!!!!!

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  37. Mikael says:

    Excellent show! I was hooked immediately and was practically on the edge of my seat the entire episode!!

  38. bob says:

    If you read the books and they see this through to the end, mark my words, this will be one of the darkest and most twisted TV series in years…

    Though to be frank, Brian Lumbley’s Necroscope series of novels is even more twisted.

  39. Ray says:

    The scariest thing about this show is Corey Stoll’s toupé! Seriously though, that Master vampire had me laughing out loud. So damn cheesy.

    Is this show supposed to be camp? If not the scare factor got lost in translation from book to screen. The prosthetic entrails were very fake looking. All The Strain has going for it is gore and unintentionally funny mutant vampires.

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  41. Dion Freeman says:

    Apparently I’m missing something about this Corey Stoll’s hair! (Toupee) Looks fine to me. Now, from all the talk, I’m assuming he gets infected and loses it, since all the victims seem to be losing their hair. But I think too much is being made over his hair. Was he in another show with NO hair or something?

  42. Dion Freeman says:

    Okay, disregard my last post about Corey! I Googled his image! LOL I get it now!

  43. Gary says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

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  45. Clint says:

    The boy should not be on the show. He is not a good actor…The role does not fit him.

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